Longitudinal Association Between Hearing Loss, Vision Loss, Dual Sensory Loss, and Cognitive Decline

Shaoqing Ge, Eleanor S. McConnell, Bei Wu, Wei Pan, Xin Qi Dong, Brenda L. Plassman

Publication Date: 09/10/2021

BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: To better understand the role of sensory loss as a potentially modifiable risk factor for cognitive decline, this study examined cognitive decline in relation to single modality hearing or vision loss and dual sensory loss. DESIGN: Longitudinal secondary data analysis. SETTING: The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and its supplement: The Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study (ADAMS). PARTICIPANTS: Individuals aged 73 and older (N = 295). MEASUREMENTS: Hearing loss was defined by an inability to hear sounds of 25 dB at frequencies between 0.5 and 4.0 kHz in either ear. Vision loss was defined as having corrected binocular vision worse than 20/40. Dual sensory loss was defined as having both hearing and vision loss. We used one time point of hearing and vision data objectively measured in ADAMS Wave C (June 2006–May 2008) and five waves of cognitive function data measured by the HRS version of the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status in HRS (2006–2014). Multilevel mixed models were used. RESULTS: Among the participants, 271 completed a hearing assessment and 120 had hearing loss; 292 completed a vision assessment and 115 had vision loss; 52 had dual sensory loss. Older adults with hearing loss had a significantly faster rate of cognitive decline as they aged compared to those with normal hearing (β = −0.16, P <.05). No significant association was found between vision loss and the rate of cognitive decline (β = −0.06, P =.41). Older adults who had dual sensory loss likewise had a significantly faster rate of cognitive decline as they age (β = −0.23, P <.05) compared to those with no sensory loss. CONCLUSION: Older adults with hearing loss and dual sensory loss have faster rates of cognitive decline than those with normal sensory function.